Suzy Snapper
Monday, October 02, 2006
The Reunion Gig
As I began to get ready for the evening, those long forgotten feelings of that little teenage girl were close to the surface. The one who was picked last, teased and picked on for her stammering pattern of speech. She no longer exists, I told myself firmly. She was gone a long time ago!

It was the 20th high school reunion of the Class of ’86. It wasn’t my year, but the year ahead of mine. In a quirky twist of fate, the organizer had called my phone number a few weeks previous looking for someone with a similar name. ‘Not me’, I recalled saying, ‘But do you need any help? Photography, for example?’

She had been surprised at her luck as well. She had been unable to find a photographer within the budget that was willing to accommodate her requirements. ‘I am just starting out’ I told her, ‘You’d be doing me a favour just as much as I am for you. Besides, I know a lot of the people going, or did a couple decades ago’

Hired. We negotiated a fair price. Probably less than I could have got, but on the other hand, right now, it is all about word of mouth. It’s about showing what I can do, and practicing what I can’t. I sent her my online portfolio and also a scan of a recent newspaper showcasing a few pictures.

I put it aside. Things were busy as usual. The night would be the day after my birthday, so it meant moving a few things up. Meanwhile, I’d been in contact with a girl I did go to school with.

We, along with a couple others, were beginning to plan our own reunion for October 2007. She was one of the popular girls. Some would even call her one of the ‘Plastics’, if they’d watched that recent Lindsay Lohan movie. In high school, she was always poised and confident. The boys loved her. She had a reputation as a party girl. When we met again at the meeting, I found myself swallowing those old feelings of inadequacy as she talked about fighting with her ex-husband about who gets the corporate jet.

It surprised me when after our meeting, she chose to contact me to talk privately. She hoped she could join me as my ‘assistant’ for the upcoming reunion. I told her she could, but there were rules. Suddenly, the ball was in my court. I would pay for her dinner but that’s all I could afford, and in return, I asked that she take notes and addresses for me to later pass on the pictures. It was a bit of a load off my mind. I could concentrate on the photography aspect and not have to worry about the administrative side.

Suddenly, it was Saturday the 23rd. I was struck with a sudden need at 3 in the afternoon for a new outfit. Those odd insecure feelings were rising to the surface again. What if they see how inexperienced I am in candid photography? What if I take photos of people who don’t want to be in the shots? What if…. The list went on.

Truly, and I knew this, it was more because that little geek-girl of my teenage years still existed inside. I may walk with my head held high now, but it isn’t that long ago that I remember those lonely nights knowing that I wasn’t welcome at the parties of my schoolmates. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I wasn’t a fun girl. I stood out from the crowd then because I consciously chose not to do those things.

L showed up on time to pick me up in her cute little convertible Mini. As we drove to the event, she was overly hyper. Talking a mile a minute about her personal life and as if trying to convince me, she mentioned several times how much she enjoyed her single party-filled life now. She’d been married for a decade, then now single with a young son, she’d re-established that party-girl life I remembered her for so long ago.

We arrived at the reunion location, the first ones there. I found the organizer in a state of panic. It was nearly start time and no one had showed up. What if no one did?, she asked us. What happens if it was a big bust?

They’re fashionably late, we assured her.

About half an hour later, the first guest arrived. He wasn’t anyone we recognized. He came in and went straight to the outside balcony and took out his pocket book and began reading. Occasionally, he would glance up but seemed to have no interest in speaking or making contact with anyone.

It seemed to be the trick though. People began pouring in. Groups. Singles. Couples. Within another half an hour, there were nearly 200 people congregated in the pub.

Everywhere you looked, there were smiles. Gales of laughter. Hugs. It was not hard to take great photos of candid moments. They were in every corner.
Some people had aged phenomenally. One girl, remembered as a quiet bookworm, had blossomed into an exotically beautiful woman. Some not as well…most notably the guy all the girls loved. He was voted in high school as the most desirable, but in walked a pudgy, salt & pepper buzz cut fellow barely recognizable as his former self. I thought he looked great…warm eyes were what I noticed, but apparently he was much changed from 20 years ago.

I was surprised to hear my name called out a few times. “Sue, is that you?”, a casually-dressed woman called out. ‘It’s me, M? You remember me, don’t you?’…she looked at me almost pleadingly. Of course, I do...but it was her face I recognized and couldn’t place her name. I said to her ‘I’m surprised. I thought no one remember me. I was such a shy little girl back then’. She laughed. ‘Yeah, you were. But you were always you. Didn’t matter what the cool kids were doing. Even then, you knew what you wanted and why’. I was shell-shocked. Really? Is that what people thought?

There were others too. People I had long forgotten, but who stood before me as newfound friends.

Before we knew it, midnight was upon us and it was time to leave. I walked with L to her car, in an upbeat mood. It had been a perfect night. I was paid for doing something I loved, and I had reinforced my self-confidence.

It was L who surprised me though. She said as we drove home. ‘Well, I’m glad I forced myself to go tonight. I’ve been sick to my stomach with nerves’, she confided.

‘Why? You were always so popular! How on earth could you have felt nervous? Everyone loved you!’, I said in a shocked voice.

‘Well, that’s just it. The boys loved me. And well, I thought by being the life of the party, that was my key to everything. Turned out it wasn’t. I just ended up being used. The boys got what they wanted, and the girls all hated me.’

I had no idea. Here I was walking into a room where I felt shy and inadequate. What she did, on the other hand, was even more courageous. She walked into a room where her demons were much more vicious.

I asked her how she felt now. ‘It made me feel like maybe I could overcome it. I can’t forget it or change it, but at least it doesn’t have to define me anymore’.

It put the whole evening into a new light. We all have our own demons and pain. We all deal with it in different ways. It takes courage to face them, but the rewards are worth it.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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